When it was recently revealed that a Ugandan newspaper was outing gays in its pages many people were shocked, but perhaps put it down to that country having societal values different from our own. Now it appears that America’s social media giant Facebook may be doing much the same thing, in its own high-tech way. From Gawker’s Valleywag:
Facebook allows users to list which gender of partner they’re “interested in.” But do you want Facebook’s advertisers to know if you’re gay? A Microsoft researcher has found a loophole which could secretly reveal a gay user’s sexuality to advertisers.
It’s no secret that Facebook, like many other online services, targets ads to different groups of users based on demographic data. But using a sensitive category like sexuality to target advertising—which Facebook apparently does—can lead to troubling privacy issues.
For a recent paper, researchers from Microsoft and Germany’s Max Planck Institute wanted to see if Facebook targeted ads based on sexuality, so they created six fake profiles: two straight men, two straight women, a gay man and a lesbian. (Besides gender and sexuality, the profiles were indistinguishable.) Then they observed what ads each profile was shown over a week’s time.
They found that the ads displayed on the gay man’s profile differed substantially from those on the straight one…
[continues at Gawker’s Valleywag]